Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, announced on the Oprah Winfrey show Friday that the title of a program to pump $100 million into the Newark school system is the "Startup: Education Foundation."
When asked why he chose Newark, Zuckerberg said, "Newark is really just 'cause I believe in these guys," referring to Newark Mayor Cory Booker and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie.
Referring to Booker as a "rock star," Winfrey said he "is putting his career on the line" for the children of Newark.
U.S. Education Commissioner Arne Duncan, appearing via satellite, and Winfrey both extolled the bipartisan co-operation exhibited by Christie and Booker.
According to NJ.com, Governor Chris Christie, wearing a purple tie and navy blue suit, and Zuckerberg, in a T-shirt, blazer and sneakers, were brought out after a segment with just Winfrey and Booker. They sat in black chairs after Winfrey gave Christie a hug.Earthtimes.org reports that Christie said, "Mayor Booker and I are thrilled to accept Mark Zuckerberg's challenge to work with the Newark community to dramatically elevate the potential of public education in the City of Newark, throughout New Jersey and across the nation. Collectively, we believe the best way to secure and improve our nation's future is to create the highest quality public education system in the world. There is no better place to begin this journey than in Newark, a city of both great progress and potential."
The Associated Press reports the Newark district has about 40,000 students and a $940 million annual budget. That's about $23,500 per student — among the nation's highest.
Few details were disclosed Friday morning about how Zuckerberg's money is to be spent.
According to npr.org, Winfrey did advocate hiring Michelle Rhee, the chancellor of schools in Washington D.C., as Newark's next schools superintendent. Other New Jersey education advocates have suggested the same move.
For Christie, the deal may be a way to recover from the biggest misstep of his administration so far: Last month, the New Jersey just missed out on a $400 million federal education grant because of a simple error on its application.
The donation also sets the stage for Christie's plans to announce statewide education reforms next week.
Abclocal.go.com reports that an official with knowledge of the plans says Christie won't give up state control of Newark schools as part of the deal, but will authorize Booker to implement the education plan. Christie will still have ultimate control and can veto any moves.
Oprah audience member Barri Leiner Grant of Chicago, a native resident of Middletown, N.J., has been active in the school reform movement.
"Christie is my hero. I'm more Democrat but I'm more Christie. I'm really proud that the world is focusing on something good about our children," she said.